How I lost my happiness (again) without even realizing it.

I woke up this morning suddenly. The kind of waking up where your eyes literally pop open, staring at the ceiling trying to focus on the little nooks and crevices in the texture above you. I thought about the night before…texting this guy I’ve been seeing for a few months, trying to figure out at 1:30am if he “felt like coming over”. (Insert annoyed emoji face here) As I recalled my conversation from a few hours prior, I tried to shake the feeling of embarrassment I felt after exposing my neediness for company (and then being rejected, mind you), and after realizing how strangely awake I was with only 5 hours of sleep, I decided I needed to go for a run. That always clears my head.

I’d heard from several people about these “nature trails” here in Oak Cliff. Something to note for those of you that aren’t familiar with my neighborhood, it’s…eccentric. Oak Cliff is the kind of community where it’s common to see “OC” or “75208” tattooed on someone’s neck/fingers/other random body part. Don’t get me wrong, it has it’s charms like the Bishop Arts District and Trinity Groves, but overall it’s pretty colorful. All of that to say, I was slightly nervous about going on a several mile hike/run in the woods as dawn was breaking. But hey, YOLO, right? (haha… I hope you laughed as you read that last sentence, because I sure did as I was typing it.)

Seriously though, this adventure was SO incredibly worth it. Words cannot express how clarifying, inspiring, and cathartic it was. I only did about 3 miles, but it was a total body workout maneuvering the trails, climbing over fallen trees, and splashing through creeks. I was disgusting by the time I was done, and it. was. glorious. These pictures don’t even begin to do it justice because 1) I’m a terrible photographer, and 2) I couldn’t focus too much on photo quality so I could avoid getting clipped by mountain bikers.

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I realized several things about running in this new environment:

  1. Running without music – this was a new one for me. Usually I will NOT go without a form of entertainment while I torture myself with exercise. Ed Sheeran, New Politics, and Red Hot Chili Peppers are pretty much all that can get me through a 4-5 mile run on a usual week day. But today I decided to go without music most of the run because it’s easier to hear upcoming bikers as they whiz by you on these tiny trails. I didn’t even realize the sounds of nature I would have missed had I been distracted by my Spotify the entire run. Creeks gurgling, birds chirping in the trees, even just the sound of the rocks beneath my shoes had me feeling all fuzzy. I really felt at peace out there. Crazy words coming from being in the middle of Oak Cliff!
  2. Coordination is not my strong suit – I seriously almost ate dirt (literally) at least 12 times. I should have had someone film me, it was probably extremely entertaining watching me hop over rocks, jump tree branches, slide down crumbling trails so I didn’t bust my face open…I’m hoping these trails will help me learn coordination and muscle control, but I’m sure they will also get a little of my blood, sweat, and tears in the process.
  3. I’ve been avoiding a LOT – Almost halfway into my run I realized how light and at ease I felt about life. All of my anxiety had melted away and I wanted to just laugh and keep hiking on those trails all morning. At the start of my run, I had a lot of thoughts to sort out, and as I ran, the peacefulness of my surroundings allowed me to think through things without all of society’s constant pressures weighing down on me.

I now realize that I am a serial “changer”, as I like to call it. I will change myself, my interests, my habits, etc. all based on the person I’m dating. I won’t really stop liking the things I currently enjoy, but I’ll just put those on the back burner and emphasize whatever fits in with the current person I’m talking to.

“Oh, you enjoy tacos and Chipotle is your favorite restaurant? Me too!”

LIE. I hate Chipotle. I don’t enjoy Mexican food. But if you do, suddenly I’m open to the idea…

“You could watch only Will Ferrell movies for the rest of your life and never be sad again? That sounds like a great idea…let’s binge watch some next weekend!”

LIE. I’ve only seen like 2 Will Ferrell movies…I know, I’m weird. I’m not against them, per say, I just don’t actively seek out trying to watch them…?

“You can’t stand Taylor Swift? Ugh, me either, what a lame talent-less copy cat.”

Again, LIE. I literally have her newest album in my car CD player now. Don’t judge me, the girl knows how to write good lyrics.

I do all of this to be liked and accepted, and it usually works out well for a while. Then, as I realized this morning, I find myself having compromised all of my joy and excitement in life from doing what I truly enjoy…all in hopes for some attention and favor.

You like to lay in bed all morning on the weekends and not get anything done? Suddenly I do too! You enjoy staying up late because you don’t have to be at work at 8am like I do? No problem, I’ll stay up with you! You can’t workout for ______ reason? No worries, I don’t have to run today.

Who am I and what did I do with the girl who was Ashley? The real, happy, genuine, motivated, positive Ashley? I mean, it’s not like I became some completely different person…I was still me, but I just didn’t feel like quite the best version on myself.

Now, I realize that another person you’re dating should make you want to be that better version of you. They should enjoy what you enjoy, push you to work harder, go farther, laugh louder. I don’t want to keep being this way, I want to be me, the real me, with the guy I’m dating.

So here’s to authenticity. Being vulnerable in who you are. Loving yourself and being happy no matter what. And to not giving a shit if they don’t like it. 😉

I Would Rather

I would rather make mistakes than be perfect.

I would rather take chances than live with regrets.

I would rather be hurt by the truth than comforted with a lie.

I would rather have one real friend than 500 surface-level relationships.

I would rather be honest about who I am than live a life of secrets and shame.

I would rather gaze at the stars than be afraid of the dark.

I would rather stay awake on coffee or Red Bull to get through the morning than have a boring night in.

I would rather take 5 trips to carry in my groceries, then have to force someone to help me bring them in.

I would rather try something new and be terrified than be comfortable and stagnant.

I would rather dance in the rain than walk with an umbrella.

I would rather sleep in a big bed alone than wake up feeling so far from someone so close.

I would rather be kind and forgiving than bitter and angry.

 

I would rather be alone forever than spend a single day with someone who doesn’t make me happy.

Happiness

Last night was a great night. It wasn’t particularly special, in the sense that nothing specific happened to make it ‘great’. I can’t really explain it any other way though, I just felt amazing.

I usually feel so blah on Sunday nights. Who doesn’t, I guess? Monday is in the morning, I’m usually still tired from the weekend’s activities, and I’m already thinking about all the things I have to do the next week being an adult and all. Yuck/sigh/eye roll.

But last night I was driving home through the middle of downtown and there was actually no traffic for once on a major highway in Dallas. Red Hot Chili Peppers was blaring on my radio, I was singing at the top of my lungs with the windows down, and I thought to myself – for the first time in a really long time – I’m happy.

Wow. It is so freeing to be able to say that and actually mean it! Often times I have to say in a way that serves the purpose of “fake it till ya make it”. But last night, I really felt it. What a powerful thing – to be happy. It’s something I’ve come to hold so dear, and, I’ve realized that it is a very rare thing to find in others. When you meet someone else who is truly happy, I’m talking filled with joy…you can see it on their face, it’s practically bursting out of them, and I love it. It really is like they say, it’s almost contagious in a way.

I used to think I was happy, but now I realize I was just comfortable. I desperately wanted to be happy with what I had…being married, the friendships in my life, the choices I made. My happiness was always contingent on outside variables. In reality, being comfortable was my safe-zone, my safety net.

One day, almost a year ago next week actually, I woke up and stared at myself in the bathroom mirror. I’ll never forget it…standing there squinting because the lights were still blinding me as my eyes adjusted. It was like the more my reflection came into focus, the more I truly saw myself. “What am I doing with my life?” “Why am I okay with being unhappy?” “What do I want?” All of these questions just wouldn’t get out of my head.

It all changed that quick. I mean, obviously I didn’t become instantly happy. But when you just realize something that seems so small, and it can start to change your entire life. It’s just been so crazy-the good, the bad, the everything. It’s all been worth it to be happy.